Players dispute cable delay claims

GERMANY: Major German energy companies have been painting a dramatically pessimistic picture of cable links to offshore projects in the North Sea, but others have hit back saying their claims are overblown.

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Slow progress in network expansion "is hindering renewables expansion in Germany", claimed Peter Terium, due to take the helm at energy giant RWE on 1 July. The connection for RWE's 295MW Nordsee Ost offshore wind farm to shore may be completed a year later than planned, he told the company's annual results meeting in Essen on 6 March. "This endangers the economic feasibility of the project," he warned.

"The delayed connection binds up capital and causes additional expenditure at the plant - EUR1 billion in investment will be idling. To avoid problems, the turbines have to turn and it may involve installing diesel aggregates to provide the power to turn them. The costs can amount to over a one hundred million euro figure per year," said outgoing RWE chairman Jurgen Grossmann at the same event.

"It's unbelievable. If it remains as bad as this no further offshore projects will be built," he said. "We have discussed this with the environment and economic ministers, and a working group has been set up," he added.

E.on Climate & Renewables had previously claimed that its 288MW Amrum Bank West project would be held up by 15 months because the Helwin 2 cable will not be commissioned until March 2015. Following its application for unconditional grid connection in autumn 2010, TenneT, the transmission system operator responsible for Germany's North Sea grid links, should provide grid connection by October 2013, E.on said.

Alternative view

But there are delays with just two North Sea offshore wind cable projects, responded Ulrike Horchens, TenneT spokeswoman. TenneT was told by the general contractor, Siemens, in November 2011 that Helwin 1 cable completion would be delayed by about eight months, from spring 2013 to the end of 2013, and the Borwin 2 cable project delayed by about three months from spring 2013 to summer 2013, she said.

Helwin 1 is to serve RWE's Nordsee Ost and Blackstone's Meerwind Sudost projects, with a combined capacity of 576MW. Borwin 2 will serve to connect Global Tech 1 owned by project company Wetfeet, and Bard Holding's Veja Mate project, both projects totalling 800MW.

Contrary to E.on's claims, the Helwin 2 cable has not been delayed, according to Horchens. TennetT informed E.on back in spring 2011 that commissioning would not be possible earlier than March 2015, Horchens said. TenneT ordered the grid connection as early as possible and for the earliest date offered, she added.

Offshore wind developer Windreich warned in February 2012 that the German energy majors were now calling into question the whole emphasis towards renewables in Germany. "For weeks now, they have been trying to undermine the offshore sector and its financing with their deliberate false reports on claimed network connection problems," the company said on 20 February. Windreich expressed confidence that the cable links for its first three projects Global Tech 1, MEG 1 and Deutsche Bucht will be ready more or less on time, " especially since the participation of Mitsubishi ensures the necessary financial liquidity.

"For MEG 1 the network connection will even be ready ahead of time, as it uses the same link as the Borkum West 2 project which will be completed earlier," it added.

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